I ran across a post by conservative columnist Peggy Noonan linked to in the comments section of a blog I often read. Titled, Don't wait, Calibrate: Learn to bend, Mr. Bush, you won't break, it has some interesting and surprising observations, coming from a former Bush Sr. speechwriter who also had a prominent role in the Reagan White House.
Mr. Bush's feelings, assumptions and convictions set theme, direction and mood. All decisions as to declared destination go to him. He seeks a sense of control by making and sticking to the decision. When he won't budge, the White House won't budge. When it clings to an idea beyond evidence and history, it is Mr. Bush who is doing the clinging. When he stands firm, it stands firm....
We all like a president who says "The buck stops here." Mr. Bush never ducks the buck. But he puts severe limits on the number and kind of people who can hand it to him. He picks them, receives their passionate and by definition limited recommendations, makes his decision, and sticks. All very Trumanesque, except Truman could tolerate argument and dissent...
George W. Bush, on the other hand, does not tolerate dissent, argument, bitter internal battles. He is the decider. He decides, and the White House carries through....Bruce Bartlett has written of how, as a conservative economist, he was treated with courtesy by the Clinton White House, which occasionally sought out his views. But once he'd offered mild criticisms of the Bush White House he was shut out, and rudely, by Bush staffers. Why would they be like that? Because they believe that as a conservative, Mr. Bartlett owes his loyalty to the president. He thought his loyalty was to principles.
No suprise, in fact, because we all know that this is the way that this White House has always operated. It has contributed both to the harshly partisan tone in Washington (yes, Republicans are in the majority, but that doesn't mean that Democrats should just bend over and get out of the way, which this White House seems to think that they should) to our low standing in the international community. It was on full display in the run up to the Iraq war, in which we now know from the revelations in former cabinet secretary Paul O'Neill's book, the Downing Street memo and elsewhere that the decision to go to war in Iraq was made very early in the Bush administration (even well before 9/11 according to O'Neill) and all the fake appeals to U.N. sanctions, diplomacy or otherwise were just window dressing on a decision that had already been made.
Noonan finished out, pointing out the positions that many Republicans, not just Bartlett, have found themselves in:
There are many stories like this, from many others. It leaves friends on the outside having to self-censor or accept designation as The Enemy. It leaves a distinguished former government official and prominent Republican saying, in conversation, "Those people aren't drinking the Kool-Aid, they're sucking it from a spigot!"
I said in my last post (on Don Rumsfeld in regard to his forcing Gen. Shinseki into retirement for disagreeing with him):
An effective leader doesn't punish people for suggesting an alternative that they might not agree with.
Apparently that is an indictment of the President as well.